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Friday, November 28, 2003

The Iraq Diversion

WIth that title, you might think I'm writing about President Bush's Thanksgiving trip to Iraq. Nope.

Warren Strobel of Knight-Ridder published a good article Wednesday with a title that concisely summarizes his major point: KR "Iraq war diverting resources from war on terror, experts say." Here are a few key paragraphs:
According to current and former officials, the Bush administration diverted precious assets, including U.S. military special operations forces, intelligence operatives and spy satellites from tracking al-Qaida to the war in Iraq.

By one official's estimate, half of the special operations and intelligence resources focused on al-Qaida were redirected to support the March 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. That figure could not be confirmed.

Former White House counter-terrorism coordinator Rand Beers, who resigned in March just before the Iraq war began, said that U.S. troops, CIA paramilitary officers and intelligence collection devices were withdrawn from Afghanistan and refurbished for use in the war against Iraq.
The article includes a denial from the Pentagon's Steve Cambone, but quotes a number of experts on-and-off the record who note that institutions like the CIA have a finite number of specialists, translaters, etc. If they are used in Iraq, they cannot be used elsewhere. Even the flood of cash over the past two years cannot help them make up the gap too quickly.

Strobel also notes a fairly frightening new globalization of terror:
Counter-terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland recently visited the Tri-Border Area, a lawless region where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet that has been used by Islamic terrorist groups to hide and raise funds. Fifteen minutes after arriving in Paraguay, he said, he was offered explosives and arms - for cash.
As I've recently noted, Wesley Clark is emphasizing that Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror.

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